Throughout November the internet exploded with the news of Doug Phillips’ recent public resignation from Vision Forum Ministries. Even though it’s been a little more than a month, various comments to my articles, as well as blog stats, clearly show that many are just now finding out. Many more will continue finding out in weeks to come.
Quite a few people initially equated Doug Phillips’ Statement Of Resignation with “repentance.” However, as I explained in a previous article, it was no such thing. Doug Phillips was duplicitous and evasive in just about everything he said in his public statements. However, he did at least tell the truth about one thing. He got the title right. It was a “Statement Of Resignation”, and nothing more.
Too many of the blog and newspaper headlines were along the lines of, Doug Phillips Extramarital Affair Forces Resignation From Vision Forum Ministries. I too made the mistake initially of using the term “extra-marital affair” to describe this scandal. However, I quickly came to see that, although it was indeed extra-marital and, therefore adultery against his wife, “affair” is an inappropriate term to use in this context. Worse yet it excuses what is, in reality, criminal conduct.
Herein I will use the term “adultery” to define Doug Phillips’ betrayal against his wife, and “clergy sexual abuse” to define his criminal actions against the young lady who, for purposes of this article and future articles, I will call “Cassandra.” Doug Phillips would object to my application of the terms “adultery” and “sex” in much the same way that Bill Clinton objected to those terms. As lawyers they use “adultery” in the strict legal sense of only constituting sexual intercourse, and if it’s not sexual intercourse it’s not even “sex.” For Doug Phillips’ it was just “an inappropriate relationship.” Such parsing leaves a lot of wiggle room, although I won’t get any more graphic than that (this is a G-rated blog).
Doug Phillips also interprets “biblically knowing each other” as sexual intercourse, and only sexual intercourse. In his way of thinking he can perpetrate any physical act, with any woman not his wife, short of actual sexual intercourse, and it’s not adultery against his wife. In his mind he hasn’t cheated on his wife and he’s not an adulterer. This gives him the escape clause he needs from being subject to the same terrible judgment that he’s pounded the pulpit with for years: “The Bible requires that all adulterers be stoned to death.” Regardless of his rationalizing, Doug Phillips is an adulterer and worse. However, I don’t believe he should be stoned to death. Doug Phillips should be grateful that our criminal justice system is rooted in English Common Law and not Sharia.
Here’s the problem with the term “affair”: It defines a relationship based upon free will and informed consent. Such a relationship is one in which both parties are fully willing to participate — where there is no coercion, manipulation, or control, and where there is a reasonable expectation that any promises made can be realistically fulfilled. Both parties are in full control of their mental faculties and emotions, and remain free moral agents. They are free at all times to say, “No” without fear of retaliatory consequences; or if after they have said “Yes” they are free to later say, “I made a mistake. This isn’t right. It’s gone too far. I want out.” Lastly, and most importantly here, an “affair” can only happen where the two parties have relatively equal “power” in the relationship. None of these things occurred in the Doug Phillips/Cassandra case because, as I’ve explained in my previous article, Boerne Christian Assembly is a religious sociological cult and Doug Phillips is the cult leader.
Doug Phillips characterizes his relationship with Cassandra as an “inappropriate relationship”, but this strains all credulity. Let’s just call it what the Bible calls it: adultery against his wife. Doug Phillips clearly demonstrates his lack of remorse (and therefore lack of repentance) when he trivializes the gravity of his offenses in Clinton-esque we didn’t go all the way terms. Even Doug Phillips’ strongest supporters didn’t buy it for long.
Cassandra was in the Phillips home every day for at least 12 years, and probably longer. It started at the time she was a young teenager, all with her parents’ consent and encouragement. She and her family were members of Doug Phillips’ religious sociological cult, masquerading as a church, Boerne Christian Assembly. Cassandra quickly became highly valued by Doug Phillips, who said of her, “In fact, we consider her to be a member of the family, and her parents to be the dearest of friends.”
Cassandra began serving part-time in the Phillips’ home when she was 15, and was there full-time from the age of 17. Even though Cassandra came from a very poor family, Doug Phillips didn’t pay her. No one, other than Doug and Cassandra, know exactly when the sex began but, at best, Cassandra was barely at the age of legal consent (17 in Texas). Some have argued that it likely started when she was under the age of consent. For Doug Phillips’ sake he’d better not have done anything at all “inappropriate” if she was under the age of consent. Texas has no statute of limitations in certain cases of sexual acts with a minor under the age of legal consent. He also better not have paid her off the buy her silence, for that too would have onerous legal consequences. But even if the sex started at 17 this wouldn’t necessarily leave Doug Phillips clear of the possibility of criminal prosecution, both in Texas and under federal statute.
Because of her age, as well as the BCA cult training, which conditioned BCA girls to “submit” to fathers and elders (i.e. passive obeisance), she would have been extremely vulnerable to Doug Phillips’ advances. The daily contact, coupled with Doug Phillips’ charm, would have softened her up.
BCA may have been a reasonably healthy and normal church when it was first started by Doug Phillips and three other church elders. There was genuine pastoral accountability and a divergence of opinions among the elders. But as those other elders started leaving to start their own churches closer to their own home towns, ultimately leaving only Doug Phillips to rule the roost, it left a vacuum of accountability and diversity of doctrine. The power soon went to his head and Doug Phillips was left unchecked to rule as an autocrat. The authoritarian Hyper-Patriarchy doctrines he continuously taught of unquestioning loyalty and submission of wives and daughters to husbands and fathers, and each of them in turn in complete subservience to their church elders (of which Doug Phillips was the only one for most of BCA’s history) served as a powerful form of mind control, as evidenced in most all religious sociological cults.
At BCA the mind control was reinforced by the terrifying prospect of excommunication, and the inevitable shunning of the entire family for one member’s excommunication. Those who have never been in a cult, or who have never studied the sociological structure and psychology of cults, find it difficult to comprehend how otherwise intelligent people can give up control over their lives, their freedom of will, and even their freedom of thought, to a charismatic leader; but the fact is it happens all the time. Most assuredly it happened to Cassandra, as well as to her parents. They all were swept up in the excitement of following a home school rock star.
Doug Phillips’ cult leader powers of persuasion add another strong argument against Cassandra having entered into a sexual relationship with Doug Phillips of her own free will, anymore than did the multiple women that David Koresh bedded. The sociological structure of Doug Phillips’ power-cult, along with his idol status among his followers (especially among the women), made it inevitable that he could, if he wanted to, bed almost any of his followers, including teens, and married women.
There are numerous reports of women flirting with Doug Phillips, both in BCA and elsewhere. This would be consistent with the behavior of “groupies” who follow rock stars. Indeed, prior to his fall Doug Phillips had a rock star status among his followers, and he had his groupies. Is a man responsible for a woman flirting with him? If he encourages it, yes, especially if he holds a position of authority over her. A man in a position of authority, and particularly pastoral authority, should do everything in his power to dissuade flirtation, not encourage it. From all reports Doug Phillips encouraged the flirtation. He, thereby, invited temptation, both to himself and to the women that he exchanged flirtations with. No doubt the cumulative effect of all that flirtation was that it went to his already inflated fat ego. In his pride Doug Phillips encouraged, rather than discouraged, his own adulation. The inevitable result was his self-destruction:
Pride goes before destruction, a haughty spirit before a fall. (Proverbs 16:18)
It’s likely that Cassandra did flirt with Doug Phillips, and for that she is probably now blaming herself. She does bear responsibility for her part in this but, in my view, her part is almost inconsequential to the sin that resulted. Doug Phillips was the moral leader and had the responsibility to rebuff any flirtations that were directed at him; but that not only didn’t happen, Doug Phillips has been seen many times in public encouraging the flirtations of his adoring female fans. As this illustration shows, the religious leader always has the weight of responsibility for preventing marital infidelity because he holds the role of leader, plus he has the advantage of experience, knowledge, authority and power, and the victim generally holds little if any of those things:
These relational imbalances are the reason why various licensed professions, such as Psychiatrists, Counselors, Therapists, Doctors, and Nurses are held to strict professional standards of conduct which govern their relationships with clients and co-workers. In all cases sexual relationships with clients and patients are prohibited. The same applies in the military where superior ranking officers and enlisted personnel aren’t permitted to “fraternize” with subordinate ranking personnel. Numerous professions have such restrictions, including clergymen. One problem, however, is that too many clergymen don’t think such standards should or do apply to them. This is especially true of those in “independent non-denominational” churches where they often have little to no accountability. However, in many states there are laws governing the conduct of clergymen with their church members. Texas is one of those states:
TITLE 5. OFFENSES AGAINST THE PERSON
Sec. 22.011. SEXUAL ASSAULT. (a) A person commits an offense if the person:
(b) A sexual assault under Subsection (a)(1) is without the consent of the other person if:
(10) the actor is a clergyman who causes the other person to submit or participate by exploiting the other person’s emotional dependency on the clergyman in the clergyman’s professional character as spiritual adviser;
(f) An offense under this section is a felony of the second degree, except that an offense under this section is a felony of the first degree if the victim was a person whom the actor was prohibited from marrying or purporting to marry or with whom the actor was prohibited from living under the appearance of being married under Section 25.01.
Sexual abuse by a clergyman has sometimes been prosecuted as a federal crime, as was Pastor Jack Schaap who received a 12 year sentence for engaging in sex with an underage girl. Schaap was initially investigated in his home state of Indiana but was cleared when it was found that the girl was of the age of consent (16 in Indiana) when the sex started. The FBI later picked up the case when it was determined that Schaap had traveled with the girl to at least two other states where they engaged in sex. Those states’ age of consent was higher. Furthermore, the federal age of consent is 18.
Doug Phillips treated Cassandra as “a member of the family” and she routinely traveled with him all over the country, and out of the country, often without Beall. With all the out of state travel it could easily change the question of age of legal consent considerably. However, this issue of legal age of consent is still separate and apart from the matter of criminal sexual abuse by a clergyman, and it’s entirely possible that Doug Phillips may be guilty of both.
In the Phillips sociological cult structure Cassandra would have been conditioned to act exactly as she did. In other words, if she did flirt with Doug Phillips, it was only after she had witnessed other young ladies doing the same, and his favorable responses to them. Her flirtations toward him also would not have happened until after he had directed signals of his interest at her first. He wanted her attention and, in her teenage ignorance, she gave it to him. Once he got it he rewarded her with special favors and privileges, including further access to him. Since she knew that he carefully guarded his access to himself, she would have felt highly favored to get to spend time in his exalted presence. That access was in itself a huge reward. Once it turned physical this would have been interpreted as an even greater reward. This is all part of what cult experts and psychologists call “grooming.” Cassandra’s attraction to Doug served to cloud his already self-aggrandizing judgment as he sought to rationalize what turned into years of cheating on his wife.
Sociopaths, with their lack of conscience, can readily do that. For a sociopath it’s not about having to deal with a guilty conscience because they, quite literally, have no conscience. But sociopaths are keenly aware of the importance of conforming to social norms within their particular sub-culture. So in Doug Phillips’ case it was just a matter of not getting caught. Add narcissism and a lawyer’s craftiness to the mix and you have a toxic recipe. That narcissism ultimately led to Doug’s downfall. He started to get sloppy. Most adulterers work hard to conceal their cheating, but a narcissist who has so long gotten away with his transgressions will tend to get more brazen about it.
In February 2012* Doug wasn’t even trying to conceal his “inappropriate relationship” with Cassandra. He was parading her around the San Antonio Independent Film Festival (Feb 23-25) as they walked as lovers, hand in hand. Eye witnesses were stunned and assumed Doug Phillips had just completely lost his mind.
In January 2013 Doug was literally caught with his pants down, in his home, by one or more Phillips family members. To the best of our knowledge it was Beall and or Josh who caught them.
Prior to this point the relationship had been an open secret. As long as Doug kept it in the closet no one at BCA or Vision Forum would hold him accountable. But for Doug to openly flaunt his adultery put everything in jeopardy, including many people’s jobs. Something had to be done. Doug was finally confronted in an “emergency BCA meeting” in February where he allegedly confessed and repented and stepped down as Elder of BCA. Doug promised the relationship would end. It didn’t. It just went back into the closet.
By September 2013 Scott Brown and the Vision Forum board members were informed of Doug’s cheating, either directly or indirectly. Pastor Joe Morecraft and Peter Bradrick flew to San Antonio in the later part of October to confront Doug Phillips for his sin. As Peter Bradrick articulated on his Facebook, things didn’t go well. However, they did go exactly as anyone should expect when confronting a sociopathic narcissist. The Notice Of Resignation followed shortly thereafter.
This entire saga makes for a textbook case of clergy sexual abuse. It is, therefore, not an “extra-marital affair.” Tragically, cases like this one are not rare. Instances of clergy sexual abuse are rampant. They must be exposed and the perpetrators must be prevented from ever again being welcomed into positions of power and trust where they can prey on the vulnerable. This especially applies to Doug Phillips who is guilty of many more betrayals than just this one case of clergy sexual abuse.
Numerous have been the comments requesting prayer for Doug Phillips and his family. Strangely absent are prayer requests for Cassandra and her family. No doubt they’re just following the example of Doug Phillips who, likewise, makes no requests for prayers for Cassandra and her family. It’s as though they don’t even exist and Doug Phillips isn’t guilty of betraying any family other than his own. I can only conclude this is because they view Cassandra as an adulteress, and likely a temptress who bears responsibility for the downfall of a great Christian leader. Clearly they don’t view her as a victim, but they really need to. If it was one of their daughters who had been caught up in such a cult I can guarantee they’d be blaming no one but the cult leader for it.
Some have asked, “What sort of a future could Cassandra see with Doug Phillips? She stuck with him throughout her later teens and the whole of her 20’s – the full span of time when all the other BCA girls are the most eager to marry. Why did she sacrifice all those years for a man who, by all appearances, couldn’t offer her marriage? The fact of the matter is he did offer her marriage, and she believed him.
Some bloggers, such as Doug Wilson, have alleged that Cassandra was some sort of “Foxy Bubbles” seductress. Far from her being the tempting seductress, it was Doug Phillips who seduced Cassandra with charm and promises. His promises included marriage and children, and his promises were sealed with what can only be viewed as an engagement ring. As confirmed by this image from 2010, Cassandra has been wearing an engagement ring for a minimum of four years.
The implications of this need to be understood in the context of the cultish culture of Boerne Christian Assembly. Many BCA girls are given “purity rings” by their fathers, which they wear on their ring finger until it is replaced with an engagement ring given to them by a fiancé. Purity rings are always simple plain bands of silver, and occasionally gold. Never would they resemble an expensive engagement ring with a large multi-caret diamond, such as the one seen here. No one in BCA could have failed to see such an expensive engagement ring on Cassandra’s ring finger. No one would have believed that it was a promise ring, especially since her father was too poor to afford it. It should have been obvious that Doug Phillips had plans for Cassandra of a permanent nature. But when you’re a cult member you just don’t question such things, and that even includes the cult leader’s wife. Whether it makes any sense to us or not, the fact of the matter is that Cassandra has believed for years that Doug Phillips would make good on his promises to marry her.
There’s one major impediment to fulfilling that promise – his marriage to Beall. Doug is deep into Patriarchy, and there are those who call themselves Patriarchs who are also into polygamy, but it’s unlikely Doug will go that far. Divorce would settle Doug’s problem but Doug doesn’t have any biblical grounds for divorcing Beall. Beall, however, certainly has biblical and legal grounds for divorcing Doug. Unfortunately Beall shares Doug’s beliefs that divorce is never permissible.
This prohibition of divorce in all cases only makes sense in light of Theonomy. But even most theonomists disagree with Doug’s extreme position on divorce. Theonomists generally hold to the more conventional view that divorce is permissible only in cases of adultery and abandonment. As an extreme Theonomist Doug Phillips would have all adulterers put to death. Thus, if your wife cheats on you, you stone her to death, leaving yourself free to remarry, without the inconvenience of having to divorce, or the stigma associated with being a “divorcee.” This also leaves you free to continue being a pastor or elder (many churches ban divorcees from being pastors and elders).
Why would Doug Phillips make promise after promise, year after year, of marriage and children to another woman when, by his own doctrinal standards, he could have no lawful means of getting out of his current marriage? His only out is if Beall were to die.
Several people, knowing Doug’s extreme views on divorce and remarriage, have emailed Jen and I expressing their deep concerns for Beall’s safety. It would be hard to miss the implications of where Doug Phillips’ extremist views might ultimately lead, and for those who have been following my articles you already know my take on Doug Phillips’ mental condition. Those already familiar with such personality disorders know what a narcissistic sociopath is capable of.
Compounding our concerns is the fact that Doug Phillips has had to confront such desperate times, and may soon be confronting even more desperate times. The old adage, “Desperate times call for desperate measures” seems ready made for an already mentally imbalanced man.
The worst possible scenario for Beall is if Doug’s exit strategy includes moving the family to some obscure place, in some obscure country (like Kenya with Brad, or maybe Peru), out of the public eye, where Doug is no longer subject to scrutiny, and Beall is cut off from all outside communication.
Pray for Beall Phillips and for the Phillips’ children. May God preserve them and protect them from all harm. And don’t forget to keep Cassandra, and her family, in your prayers, as well.
*Author’s Note: I had previously stated this occurred in 2013. After checking again with my sources I realized that my chronology was inaccurate. The circumstances remain unchanged, but the chronology of events was out of order. I apologize for any confusion. If anything this creates an even more problematic situation. What this means is that key Vision Forum people had first hand knowledge that the “inappropriate relationship” had been going on for even far longer than we even realized and, apparently, little or nothing was done to confront it.